Admittedly, I’m not the best person to write about this topic. I’ve only been a father for barely a month, this is my first child, and unlike Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Ricki Lake or Chef Wan, I’m not a certified parenting consultant. And for all you know, I’m making half of these stuff up.
But the past 30 days have taught me more than what I’ve learned from books I’ve read throughout the nine months of my wife’s pregnancy — which was very little to begin with. So to celebrate our little Orked turning one-month-old, I’ve decided to do some public service by sharing a few points which I hope can come handy for all the new and soon-to-be fathers out there.
1. Pimp Your Ride
If you are a vintage car enthusiast and own a 2005 Honda City like me, it’s a good idea to make sure that your machine is in top form as your wife gets closer to D-Day. The last thing you want is your car breaking down on the way to the hospital and your baby delivered by untrained PLUS officials.
My car appeared to be aware of this belief and made more weird menacing noises as we got closer to my wife’s due date. So as any responsible car owner anticipating childbirth would do, I went to the mechanic and got her fixed (the car, not the wife).
A new front suspension lower-arm and rear brake-pads later, the car is good as new and the mechanic laughs his way to the bank. It hurts the wallet but a well-oiled machine is a worthy investment unless you don’t mind registering the North-South Expressway as your child’s place of birth.
2. Labour of Love
As the name suggests, labour is no fun. It involves waiting, measuring dilations, waiting, inducing contractions, waiting, and ultimately, getting a human being out of another human being’s body, while waiting.
As a husband, you will not be able to experience nor alleviate the physical pain of labour. And you will never be able to understand the pain, ever. No matter how many times the ball have hit your balls during Sunday league.
Thus you are only limited to things that are within your control to make the whole experience just a bit more bearable for your wife. And this pretty much leaves the labour room TV as the only thing you can maneuver with so no matter how much you adore Jennifer Lopez, don’t put American Idol on if you wife hates her with a passion.
The other thing you could do is be friendly with the midwife nurses. There is a massive gap of expectations between us and them as they do this on a daily basis and we don’t (thankfully). Don’t be discouraged if your wife is writhing in pain and the midwife seems less empathic than she should. Just stay on course, keep assuring your wife that you are in it together with her and cheer your hearts out when she’s pushing later. Your support means the world to her.
Labour is the most excruciating part of the whole childbearing experience. As a husband, I would probably liken it to going on a roller coaster without seat belts. It is a gonad-shrinking experience. But you wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.
3. Guarding the Ward
Apart from being a new father, the first few days after childbirth also means that you are a gatekeeper. And the palace you’re safeguarding is the maternity ward. Your wife had just pushed a person out of her body and she needs all the rest she can get. And unlike us, women do mind being photographed with hair resembling a hurricane. Thus it’s best to keep visitors at a minimum.
Most people are courteous enough to inquire if it’s okay to visit so that makes your job easier. If need be, it is perfectly acceptable to inform people to come over in a few weeks time or later, once the mother and baby are more prepared. While at the hospital, I guess the rule of thumb is that only close family members and friends are allowed.
In other words if you belong to a professional football team, try to not invite the entire squad to come over and celebrate. There’s a time and place for everything. This rule applies stronger if you play rugby.
4. What’s in a name?
I’m not sure if this a thing or not but I know of very few guys who are strongly-opinionated when naming a child. I’d like to believe that most men have a more macro, higher level view in naming their children that as long as it means something nice and isn’t after a football player they loathe, it’s fine.
I personally feel that a child’s name must be simple enough to be pronounced, spelled and remembered. It is fully understandable that some fathers are simply die-hard on certain names and at least in Malaysia, it is always them who register the name of the child while the mother is in confinement.
But look again into the eyes of your wife and tell me you don’t see the love of a mother who fully deserves the right to name her child. Or at least have her choice mixed with yours; as long as it’s no more than 140 characters.
When my wife proposed a name for our child, I naturally had no objection and this was further enforced after I’d witnessed what she went through during labour. At that point she can rename me if she wants.
5. Mothercare and “Fatherbroke”
Unbeknownst to many, the babywear industry is governed by a cartel headquartered in the depths of the Amazon which controls the pricing of goods worldwide and plants articles like “Why affordable, non-organic swaddles can cause rashes to your baby, AND YOU?!” in the media.
Well at least that’s what the conspiracy theorist in me thinks. The rational side of me believes that baby companies are rich enough as they are thus we need to be prudent in purchasing their products so that the wealth of the world is better distributed.
It doesn’t hurt to buy a decent amount of clothing for your child ahead of the delivery but bear in mind that there will be gifts from kindhearted friends and families in the form of babywear. Not to mention that infants grow fast and before you know it, they can already fit into your office pants.
If you have overbought, however, fear not as hand-me-downs is a regular practice in the world of baby management. Just hide the all pictures of the kid’s older brother or sister in the same attire.
(Note: This post was originally published on 6 April 2014)
Asrif Yusoff is a writer who is putting a hold on his latest vampire romance novel to focus on fatherhood and the art of changing diapers while watching football.